The current enforced isolation seemed like a perfect opportunity to start on the next Technics project.
I collected this recently from the son in law of the lady who bought it new. It's a Technics Sl-Q21 (black version of the silver Q20) from 1982. It's equipped with a T4P arm so obviously intended for a mom and pop audience as there is no overhang adjustment and a standard 1.5g VTF so it’s dead easy to set up and there is real ongoing need to adjust. The arm is also of decent quality with smooth bearings and even a limited range of VTF and bias adjustment for tinkerers.
It's got a quick and smooth auto return mech and a front mounted slide to cue up. It hasn't seen much use, it’s even fitted with a genuine Technics P24 stylus that looks in decent nick.
These make a great starter deck for someone with no knowledge of the TT black arts. It would have been perfect deck for my folks as I never remember seeing them set up their old belt drive TT in 40 years . My view is that many non-audiophile users would have been much better served with a T4P deck instead of a conventional arm (which requires some knowledge to set up properly).
Despite its plain appearance, the Q20/21 uses the rather excellent quartz locked direct drive motor, magnet and platter from their pricier consumer decks such as the SL-Q202. The direct drive gives virtually instant start up, rock solid speed and 1 second 33 / 45 changes (just like a 1200/1210!). And to my eyes, the motor unit looks uncannily similar in concept to the unit fitted to the current SL-1500C.…
This one is in uncommonly good condition, with only the usual layer of grime, sticky controls, platter dis-colourations and scratched lid common to a TT that probably has not been used in the last 20 years. Opening it up, most likely for the first time since leaving the factory, everything looked remarkably dust free, neat and tidy with no heat spots or expanded caps on the PCB. There is evidence of cost cutting compared to Q202, which was sold concurrently. The top plate is a good quality plastic rather than cast alloy. It also dispenses with the suspension so unlike the Q202 where the motor is attached to the suspended baseplate, everything is mounted to the underside of the top-plate, not dissimilar to the earlier 13/14/1500 Mark 1 but without that models free floating power supply.
The baseplate doesn't use Technics non resonant material, however, it is still reassuringly chunky and Is much better than the thin ABS used on the earlier 1500 Mk 1 series. Well-designed springy rubber feet are fitted which are still in excellent condition.
I first removed the auto return assembly which looks all but identical to that on the 202. Using foaming cleanser, toothbrush and paper towel I removed old grease from the various cogs, slides and levers. I then reapplied Electrolube PTFE Grease to the same spots and PTFE Oil to any bearings, spindles etc. I also removed and re-greased the rods that connect the cueing slide to the arm lift. Unlike the earlier SL-1500 Mark 2 the arm lift is a very solid design that won't fail.
Removing the return mechanism also revealed the arm board is not removable. I didn’t want to risk doing more harm than good so I just wiped clean all visible grease, then re-greased any linkages and levers and oiled any bearings I could access.
By far the fiddliest task was dismantling and cleaning the front panel switches and cue slide which get gummed up and sticky. The speed control switch was trouble free, however, the power switch is the same infernal design used on the Q202. The switch activation relies on flimsy thin hinged plastic and the design is such that dismantling it is a heart in the mouth job. It’s the only real weak spot in the design. I cleaned up all the parts, squirted De-oxit in the switch and re-greased the spring mech and reassembled the switch. The cue slide was then dismantled, cleaned and re-greased taking care not to lose the spring and ball bearing! I also removed and cleaned the strobe lense and re-greased the sprung arm lift.
Before final reassembly I flipped it over and cleaned up the top plate and arm base using foam cleanser, small paint brush and soft cloth.
The arm was also cleaned up, taking care not to get any liquid in the bearings. I also lubed the bearing using suitable oil supplied by Johnny at Audio Origami.
Reassembly took only a few minutes requiring nothing more than a one point Phillips Screwdriver. Technics clearly put a lot of thought into simplifying manufacture.
A quick test revealed that all the controls now operated with a light and smooth action. It's now just awaiting the lid and platter to be polished then it should be good to go.
I'll be trying this in my study first with the original TP24 cart, then with a new AT-85EP T4P cart (which seems very similar spec wise to a 95E).
PICS to follow!